Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rocky Road Cake

In my pantry I have a box filled with magic.  While others may call it "cheating," I prefer the phrase "taking a short cut."  In the end, what matters is that it tastes good (which this cake does).  Using Bisquick I made a cake that is fluffy, not doughy like one would expect when using a biscuit/pancake mix.  Mixed with some brown sugar and binders for a few minutes you get a perfect cake base with which to top with almost anything.  In this case, I followed the recipe, covering the cake surface with everything that a good ice cream sundae of Rocky Road ice cream should have.  Those of you who like the "ice cream" parallelism will appreciate my mother's slice in the background of the photo, topped with a dollop of whipped topping.

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Bisquick Makes it Easy!

1-1/2 cups Bisquick baking mix (I used the HeartSmart variety)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg (or 1/4 cup EggBeaters - Say No to Salmonella! and lick the bowl of raw batter)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter chips
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 deg. F.  Grease and flour round pan, 9x1-1/2".  Beat baking mix, brown sugar, water, shortening, vanilla and egg in bowl on low speed for about 30 seconds; scraping bowl frequently.  Beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes; scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour mixture into pan.  Sprinkle remaining ingredients over batter.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are such an American classic.  I would go so far as to argue that chocolate chip cookies are more American than apple pie.  Sure, the chocolate is grown in South America, and the sugar comes from somewhere in the Caribbean, but I would guess that more servings of chocolate chip cookies are eaten by Americans per year than servings of apple pie.

I made these on the same day as the ratatouille, and several days later they are even better.  They are easy to make, the dough is delicious, and they even facilitate aroma therapy.  Could you ask for more of such a humble dessert?  I think not.

I used Better Homes and Garden's recipe which calls for a little more brown sugar than the classic toll house version. I like a carmel flavor in my cookie, and these had just that.  This recipe makes the perfect milk dunkable cookie: crispy edges, chewy middle. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

White Bean Ratatouille

This meal is kind of special.  It is the first dinner meal (not heated up in a microwave, mind you) that I have ever made with zero assistance from my sous chef, Mom. 

Last Thursday everyone was out of the house, and I fully took advantage of this time to cook and bake (be watching for a cookie posting!)  It took me an obscene amount of time to chop the vegetables, particularly to figure out how to cut up garlic and how to peel eggplant.  I have never cooked eggplant before.  In fact, I'm not even sure if eggplant has ever been cooked in my house even by someone who isn't me.  The kitchen has been christened.

Another reason why this meal is special?  It has a (minor) connection to the exciting news I am about to share.  Several times I have eaten the "white bean ratatouille" served up in the dining halls at my university, which is where I got the inspiration to add the delicious little beans to this recipe. Come fall quarter I will be working in the dining hall!  First real job! This may not seem exciting to those of you who understand "dining hall" to be code language for "cafeteria," but hey, I'd rather work around vegetables and desserts that I love than filing cabinets and office phones that I detest.  Think about that, and in the meantime, feast your eyes.

White Bean Ratatouille adapted from "Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book"

BH and G says that this recipe is "Mediterranean," but anyone who has ever seen that movie with the rat knows this is a bunch of bologna.

3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 cups cubed, peeled eggplant
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 14 oz can sliced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup chopped bell pepper (I like green)
3 tablespoons water

In a large skillet cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until soft.  Mix in eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, bell pepper, and water.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender.  Uncover and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally.  Stir in basil.

This recipe serves about three people.  If you only have two people, that's better because in my opinion the leftovers were better, especially eaten cold!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I think that of all the textures of food, crunch would be my favorite.  So, ever since recovering from the whole popcorn/gum fiasco, I have been craving crunchy food.  Crusty bread, cereal, crackers...nothing could quench the desire until yesterday, when I made my own granola.  That's right, I didn't pay $4 for a box of oats covered in partially hydrogenated soy bean oil and sugar.  What I made was much more delicious.

I did my research on the Internet.  Most granola recipes that came up from Google had several things in common: oil, butter, sugar, molasses (i.e. more sugar).  Why was this necessary?  Granola has become synonymous with "health freak" in our society, but could it be that this was a misnomer?  I mean, surely any "health benefits" one garnered from eating the good oats and nuts would be negated by the fat and sugar.

So I did some more research, and after tweaking a few recipes, I came up with a recipe for granola that does not use oil whatsoever.  Eureka!

Recipe adapted from the New York Times:

Yield: 8 servings (1/2 cup size)
  • 3 cups of rolled oats (I had no problem using quick cooking, though some people don't advise it, and feel free to substitute some other grains if you don't have enough; for example, I used about a 1/2 cup of Grape Nuts cereal for added crunch with 2-1/2 cups of oats)
  • 1 cup of mixed nuts and seeds (basically whatever I had around, some pecans, almonds, and sunflower seeds)
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  • 1/2 cup of dry shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  •  Dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of maple syrup (I used sugar free syrup, plus a few packets of Splenda to taste.  Using sugar free syrup surprisingly still resulted in a crunchy granola, so have no fear!)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (I prefer raisins and craisins)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except dried fruit.  Place on a sheet pan in center rack of oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so to prevent burning.
2) Remove pan and add dried fruit.  Allow pan to cool on a rack, stirring occasionally until granola reaches room temperature.  Keep in sealed container in fridge; it will last forever this way.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Popcorn, Peach Sorbet, and Deformed Lemon

I haven't been doing much baking, even though I have had access to a kitchen and a lot of time on my hands.  I guess that is the result of summer laziness. 

An outrageous occurrence in early June left me in a sad state of eating mush.  A bowl of popcorn is was my favorite night time snack when mixed with a handful of raisins.  Yet, in indulging one night a popcorn hull became lodged between my tooth and gum tissue and enjoyed itself wreaking havoc with my white blood cells.  Two treatments of antibiotics, a taste-bud altering mouthwash, approximately 10 injections of anesthetic, and a laser procedure to pull back the flap of my gum, and finally I am healed!  I was put on a "soft foods diet" for a week after all that fun.  Yay.  Not.

Thankfully, adversity breeds creativity.  Tired of eating pudding, soup, and ravioli, one night I decided to make a refreshing, fruit dessert.

I decided on Peach Sorbet.  Out came the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker!

First I blended:
1 C fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 C frozen diced peaches
3 TB lemon juice, mixed with 1 TB water

After about 10 minutes in the ice cream maker, I put the good stuff in a container in the freezer for about 3 hours.  When I came back to enjoy, I was disappointed with how hard it had become.  Perhaps this was the result of not enough fat, or too much liquid?  The freezing also took away some of the sweetness, so next time I might add a little sugar or *gasp of horror* Splenda.  The mixture itself, however, would make a great smoothie, especially for those who like them a little sour with that splash of lemon in there.

Before I close, a note about lemons:
I have a lemon tree in my back yard (yes, I am very lucky, I know).  The lemons are always delicious, even though one that I used in the dessert isn't what one would call "classically beautiful."

Case in point:

(A lemon that wanted to be a chili)

Cross sectioned:

Believe it or not, this little guy actually tasted good.  I guess this is mother nature also trying to tell us that it is what is on the inside that matters...haha, cliches.